and being an Artist

COLORED BLOCKS and SHADOWS, Number 2, and Random Thoughts on Human Mortality and the Creative Life

Title:  "COLORED BLOCKS & SHADOWS, Number 2." Genre:  Macro Still Life / Table-Top Still Life. Copyright Nawfal Johnson ~ All Rights Reserved.   Penang, Malaysia.

Title: “COLORED BLOCKS & SHADOWS, Number 2.”
Genre: Macro Still Life / Table-Top Still Life.
Copyright Nawfal Johnson ~ All Rights Reserved.
Penang, Malaysia.


Time on this earth is really very limited.  I think that many people believe that their time on this earth is more than what it really will be.  Therefore, many people have the attitude that they can put things off until later.

I have kind of learned to dislike the non-action statement of, “I’ll do that later.”

What if you DON’T make it until ‘later’?

I think that having a disease of any sort, it sort of causes you to live in a different reality than many other people.  Living with some disease is a very powerful and awakening experience.  It means that you may have to do some things differently than someone who has ‘good health’.   What is ‘good health’?  I have always equated ‘good health’ with NOT having any ailments.  However, ‘good health’ could mean being at complete peace with whom you are – ailments or no ailments.  I need to think about this one more before coming to any conclusions about what ‘good health’ really means.

Health is a topic that sits pretty high on the surface of my mind.  My chronic anterior uveitis (iritis is part of anterior uveitis) has been one such health experience that is fresh on my mind.  Anterior Uveitis is a very difficult and painful reality for many people who suffer (and it is extreme suffering a lot of the time) from Ankylosing Spondylitis.

I never imagined that at a relatively reasonable age (48), I would have some permanent damage to my eyes; nevertheless, that is my new normal – my new reality.  Now I see a lot of clutter…a lot of pigments…a lot of ‘crap’ in my vision, and this has been quite disheartening for me.

I was always so used to having decent eyesight:  clear, crisp, focused, with no obstructions of any sort.  As a photographer, having good eyesight is usually a very necessary thing.  Of course, it is not required necessarily to create good and meaningful images, but it does make life easier.

Seeing crud in my vision has gotten old very quickly.  It is not an enjoyable thing at all.  It is very distracting.  Also, in the sunlight, the refraction off the pigments stuck to my eye’s lens, makes it easier to get eye-headaches.  Going outside in the tropical sun, for me, means having to wear sunglasses all the time.

Do not misunderstand me:  I am very grateful that I did not lose total eyesight in my right eye.  I am very thankful for the eye doctor I have now – my doctor is very amazing.  Let me digress a little and tell you a story about something that happened last Friday.  Last Friday, I thought I had an eye doctor appointment, but I was mistaken.  I went to the hospital, walked into the eye clinic and there were no patients in the waiting area.  I knew that something was very wrong with that picture.  There are normally 50 or more patients waiting to see the eye doctors in the eye clinic.  I got a little nervous:  I began thinking that I screwed up my appointment time, the date, or even the wrong week.  Luckily my eye doctor walked out of a training session she was in at that time, and she said, “Are you here to see me…today?”  She was confused why I was there.  After some checking in the appointment book, we discovered that I was mistaken about my appointment time and date.  Oops.  However, in all the confusion, and even though I did NOT have an appointment at that time, my doctor found an open office that was available, and she said, “Come on…let’s check your eyes.”  She set me in front of the refraction glass microscope, and she spent about 20 minutes with me checking out my eyes.  What an awesome doctor I have! 

  • I am so very grateful that some how, she entered  into my life at this time, during a very difficult time, with my eye disease.  For me, that is a “WOW” circumstance.   

You see, when you face some difficulty on a daily basis, I’ll use myself as an example, with Ankylosing Spondylitis, and Chronic Anterior Uveitis, I believe I think about each day with a bit more…what should I say here without creating some misunderstanding…it is like my thinking becomes filled with more urgency…getting things done brings on a new sort of critical need.  I ask myself very often, 

How can I move forward in a better way, knowing that it is very likely that I will face more pain while doing some task.  Chronic Pain can be a horrible anchor chained to your back.  Chronic Pain challenges you in ways that are different from people who do not suffer from chronic pain.  I equate Chronic Pain with some sort of unwelcome visitor who I wish would just go away…at least for some time.  Despite the physical pain I have, I know that people are counting on me; I have deadlines to meet despite the arthritis I have; I also have creative urges and needs to fulfill a powerful internal creative requirement that I feel I must do with a certain kind of perfectionism.  Despite being ‘Arthritically-Challenged’, the show must go on, so to speak (LOLOL! I don’t think that Arthritically-Challenged is a real word, but I don’t care – it is a real fact for millions of people who suffer from any sort of autoimmune disorder, cancer, disability, or arthritic disease).

If you are any sort of freelance or independent artistic person, then you still must plan, you must create, and you must deal with all sorts of business and creative challenges.  In addition to and because of the disease that we “own” [as one friend told me –  Marina :^)  ], I believe that we were just given an extra responsibility and challenge in our creative lives, to overcome – and in the end, that should make us stronger – in fact, it MUST make us stronger.  Does this make any sense…?

* What contribution should I make today, for myself, my family, and in this universe.  What could I do that would be something meaningful in a grander scale? 

Here I go off in another direction.

I do not like selfish behavior – I do not like the “Kiasu” attitude that is so prevalent today.  “Kiasu is a Hokkien and Singlish word that literally means ‘fear of losing’.” (Source – Wikipedia).  This attitude is a ME-CENTRIC selfish sort of behavior.  People selfishly cutting in line (any line, at the store, while driving, etc), that is one type of Kiasu behavior.  What if instead of thinking of yourself first, that you thought of other people first?  I am not saying that self-preservation is not important, not at all.  What I’m saying is that some people go WAY-OVER the top with selfishness.  What about being helpful to other people?  What would that day look like?  Sure, you should still be thinking of yourself, but not so aggressively, especially when other people get hurt in the process.

By the way, this post has nothing to do with my photograph (above), well, nothing that I can think of at the moment.

As George Carlin said:  “I don’t do transitional work as you can see,” moving right along to the next thought.

And moving right along…I’m very sorry if this post sounds a little depressing, or… I don’t know…I think I’m in a bit of a funk.

I just want to move forward.

I just want to take more risks so I can fall on my face a lot:  I know it will be painful, but at least I’ll be moving forward!

My favorite quote on moving forward is from Brooks Jensen, the founder of LENSWORK Magazine.  He said:  “Even if I’m falling on my face, at least I’m moving forward.”  That thought is very powerful.  To risk, to do, to even be brave enough to look foolish because you did something outside your comfort zone and failed – that means you are falling on your face…that means you are learning and moving forward.  I want to do that more.  I need to do that more.

I need the “right people”…by that, I, as a freelance artist and photographer, need my work to be exposed (pun intended I guess) to art buyers.  Art Buyers are those people who make decisions about whose artwork will be purchased for some purpose.  For an artist to survive, we need to grab the attention of art buyers.

Sometimes, I wonder, “Where the hell are the Art Buyers!?!”  “I am an Art Photographer – I have some interesting work, I think?, HERE ME SCREAMWhat more do I need to do?  Where are you?”  These are quite important questions.  As artists we need to be fulfilled by our creative works – this is something that comes from our creative soul.  However, to be in business, it is a must that we sell our works and our services.  The whole ideal of being in business is to make a profit.  I don’t think any artist really wants to live a  Vincent van Gogh-life – do they?

Reality is…as an artist, we need to find the key that opens ‘artistic’ doors,  and we also need the keys that open opportunities to successfully fulfill our economic needs.  This is not so easy.  I know I need to constantly be productive.  I must always be creating new work and getting it out there into the world, e.g., I MUST PROMOTE my work in all ways possible.  If I don’t shamelessly promote my work, who will?  No one.  I am responsible for creation and promotion.

I think I’m having some sort of crisis…you can just ignore me – it is OK.  I don’t want my crisis to turn into some sort of virus – I don’t want my funk to affect anyone else…please forgive me.  I will dive into my work and I will be fine.

And speaking of “time”… (remember, I don’t do transitional work).

Yeah, sometimes I think about the question, “How much time do I have?”  I would guess that it is a very legitimate question to ask yourself.  Don’t obsess over this question – no, no, no, that’s probably not healthy.  However, to be aware of this question and knowing that your time is limited, is of some value.  We should know that we must do things that are bigger than ourselves…that are bigger than our own desires…things that help other people.

I do believe that our actions are like an echo that sounds out and returns to us:

If you yell out, “I hate you!”  The echo yells back at you, “I hate you!”  If you yell out, “I love you!”  The echo yells back at you, “I love you!”  What you do and put out there does return to you.  Thus, make sure what you put out there is GOOD STUFF!

Well…these are more words than I usual write in a blog post.

I hope that everyone who has stuck with me this far, my friends out there, new and old, I really wish that you have a very fulfilling and creative day.  I wish for you ONLY the BEST in life.  I wish for you that the love you send out into the universe comes back to you.  I am a firm believer in the Newtonian Law – Newton’s Third Law of Motion:

Third law: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.

I believe that this law also holds true in how each person exerts a certain force (i.e., attitude, love, positivity, compassion, etc; and this law holds true in the opposite direction, with negative things, hate, negativity,  cruelty, etc.).  Both positive and negative “vibrations” exist.  I guess it is the type of vibration you wish to put out there in the world, which is important.  I know that if I send out good feelings to other people, nearly always, I receive good feelings in return.  I want that…I want more of that in my life.  This makes me feel happy – happier.

I know I’m jumping around here; I believe I am being a bit random in this post.  Oh well, I think my mind is feeling a bit random today.  I better go put some of that randomness-energy into some new artwork.

Take care my friends.